One of the most acclaimed titles of E3 2012, the private showing of Tomb Raider demonstrated not only a beautifully textured world but Lara Croft as we’ve never seen her before. Picking up directly where the previous demo from E3 2011 left off, the young post-graduate Lara has washed ashore on an island and is faced with the greatest survival challenge of her life.
After witnessing the occult death of her friend and narrowly escaping captivity from a dank dungeon, the demo begins with Lara overlooking a cliff’s edge. As the developer presenting the demo explains, it is not a cutscene, rather once the player moves the controls the gameplay is engaged and you can lead Lara along the path presented. Having already suffered some wounds, her gait is weak and the physical stress she has witnessed is apparent in her movements.
However this does not prevent her from scaling cliff sides and dangerous wreckage in an effort to find safety. After robbing a corpse of its bow and arrows, she is equipped to hunt down some island wildlife in order to survive the night. By now it’s apparent that surviving plays a major role in this game. Many of the skills that you’ll be able to level up incorporate how well you can survive the island, for instance, a skill set that allows you to pick up your arrows after shooting them.
The demonstrator took some time here to talk about how Lara interacts with the world around her. She stumbles upon an abandoned campfire under a waterfall and successfully starts a fire, but she needs sustenance to survive. She goes further into the forest to hunt and after killing a stag, she has to find her way back. Rather than pausing to follow a map back to the campfire, the demonstrator uses the river to navigate back to the campsite.
This scene under the waterfall really exemplifies the details put into the environment, from Lara’s shivering and foggy breath, to the “droplets” on the view of the screen. Personally, I could have done without the droplets, they looked more like lens flares of an unfocused camera to me, but the idea is nice. Anyways, the actions Lara has done so far have earned her XP and the demonstrator takes a moment here to upgrade her skills.
She eventually makes some contact over the radio but rescuers can’t reach her yet, no surprise there. She runs into some other shipmates but they’re not helpful and trouble only follows her. The demo ends with Lara taking her first kill, an assailant who initially tries to kill her, but it’s clear when the pursuer’s mind changes from just hurting Lara, to taking advantage of her. There are a few button commands that the player uses to engage Lara into attacking her pursuer, biting him, kneeing him in the balls, etc. The player literally helps Lara fight in this scene. Though she’s remorseful for it, I think male or female, the player will feel proud of Lara for killing him and surviving.
Watching the storyline progress, it’s really hard to believe how Lara hasn’t toppled over from exhaustion yet, let alone survived this far. But from what I can gather, that’s the premise this Tomb Raider title takes rather than the rambunctious tomb raiding action of its predecessors. It’s about Lara’s history and building up her strength, knocking her down when she becomes overconfident, and then watching her grow because of it.
As an origin story goes, Lara has very good reasons for being scared and her incredible strength and perseverance of overcoming her terrible circumstances is what this game is about. The moral is that even though all these terrible things happen to her, she is going to come out of it stronger, more determined, and all and all, more admirable. I can’t wait to play the game, I want to see Lara make it out alive. It might not be what long time fans of the series have expected, but it’s no doubt an exciting change that players will enjoy.